Types of Mouth Cancer

Your mouth is composed of many different types of cells. The type of mouth cancer you have depends on which type of cells your cancer began in.

The vast majority of mouth cancers are squamous cell carcinoma. This is true regardless of where in your mouth the cancer begins.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Oral Cavity

More than 90 percent of mouth cancers are squamous cell carcinoma. Squamous cells are thin, flat cells that look like fish scales. They are found in the tissue that forms the surface of the skin, the lining of the hollow organs of the body, and the lining of the respiratory and digestive tracts. Carcinoma means cancer.

Squamous cell carcinoma most commonly appears on parts of the body frequently exposed to the sun, such as the face, ears, and neck. But it also arises in the mouth.

Less common cancers of the oral cavity include:

Oral Verrucous Carcinoma

Verrucous carcinoma is a rare subtype of squamous cell carcinoma.

Oral Melanoma

Melanoma develops in the pigment-producing cells that give skin its color. Melanoma of the head and neck can occur anywhere on the skin or inside the nose or oral cavity. Lean more about melanoma treatment.

Where Mouth Cancer Begins

Even though most mouth cancers are squamous cell carcinoma, the treatment your doctor recommends depends on the exact location of the cancer. Learn more about the specific areas where mouth cancer can begin and the treatment options for each.

  • Floor of Mouth Cancer

    Often mistaken for a canker sore, floor of mouth cancer begins in the horseshoe-shaped area under the tongue.

  • Gum Cancer

    Often mistaken for gingivitis, gum cancer is highly treatable when found early.

  • Hard Palate Cancer

    It is rare for cancer to begin in the hard palate, but when it does the most common sign is an ulcer on the roof of the mouth.

  • Inner Cheek Cancer (Buccal Mucosa Cancer)

    Learn about the symptoms and treatment of inner cheek cancer, also called buccal mucosa cancer.

  • Lip Cancer

    Lip cancer is highly curable when diagnosed early. Learn more about symptoms, causes, and treatment for cancer that begins on the lips.

  • Tongue Cancer

    Find in-depth information on the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of oral tongue cancer.